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How To Wash Wool Without Dry Cleaning

How to wash wool
Spot Treat

Can you wash wool at home? Yes! You can wash wool sweaters, jackets, blankets, winter accessories, pants, and more from home, but if your wool item is structured or has a lining as a blazer, coat, or suit typically would, spot treat stains and odors instead of washing wool. You can also steam wool fabrics after spot treating for a deeper clean!

  • To spot treat stains and odors on your wool item, wet our Wash & Stain Bar (our wool spot cleaner of choice) with cool water and create a lather. This specially designed bar easily lifts odor-causing oil and grease based stains from wool and other natural fibers like cashmere. Use your fingers, or a damp Stain Brush to apply the lather to the stained areas, gently working it into the fabric.
  • After lathering, remove excess soap with a wet Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth, or a soft microfiber cloth. Continue dampening the cloth with cool water as needed, and repeat the process until satisfied. 
  • If spot cleaning only, proceed with air drying by hanging the wool item or laying it flat to dry. Wool knits should typically dry laying flat, and wool outerwear can be hung up to dry. To help remove any water spots, wrinkles, or excess odor, steam the wool item. Wool should never be placed in the dryer

Whether hand or machine washing wool, always pretreat stains with Stain Solution (for color-rich stains) or the Wash & Stain Bar (for oil-based and makeup stains).

Apply Stain Solution to wool stains before placing items in the washing machine. Stain Solution is ideal for protein and dye or tannin stains, such as wine, coffee, ink, grass, urine, blood, and even works on old, set-in stains such as pit stains. This “liquid gold” is powered by plant-derived enzymes that start working in just one drop to dissolve color-rich stains from wool items. Stain Solution can also be used to prevent underarm yellowing on white or light-colored wool clothing—simply apply before every wash to sweat prone areas to remove unseen buildup.

Use the Wash & Stain Bar for cleaning oil and grease based stains from wool before laundering. It works the yarn to remove dirt, grease, oil, and makeup making it ideal for cleaning sweaters, cardigans, and scarves. Work the bar into a lather using cool water and your fingers or a Stain Brush. Apply the lather to the oil-based stains, and work in using circular motions. For tough oil stains on wool, rinse fabric thoroughly after the lathering process to help release excess oil, apply more Wash & Stain Bar lather, and then proceed with washing.

  • How to remove odor from wool? To remove unwanted smells and odors from wool clothes, presoak the items for 10-15 minutes in a tub or Wash Basin filled with cool water mixed with 1/4 cup of Scented Vinegar before washing. The powerfully cleansing properties of vinegar help to dissolve odors, product buildup, and sweat to achieve a perfectly clean finish after laundering
How to wash wool
How to wash wool

  • Hand washing wool is the best way to clean wool at home instead of dry cleaning. Dry cleaning involves solvents and enzyme-rich detergents will damage the yarns in wool.
  • To wash wool, add 2 capfuls of wool detergent to a wash tub basin or sink filled with cool water. Wool clothes will shrink if not washed with cool water and a gentle touch.
  • Mix the water and wool wash with your hands and soak for up to 30 minutes.
  • Rinse well by running cool water through the item until there is no more soap.
  • Do not wring. Instead, press the water out of the item in between your hands. If there is color in the water, don’t worry - this is normal. The yarn is simply releasing excess dye, and you will not notice any loss of color from your garment after the wash is complete.
Machine Wash

While some delicate wool items should be hand washed, many wool garments such as heavy sweaters, blankets, and even wool coats can be machine laundered using gentle methods and a wool-specific detergent.

First, turn the item inside out, and place it in a Mesh Bag. Mesh washing bags add a layer of protection to fabrics, preventing snagging, tearing, and warping inside the machine during the spin cycle. It’s especially important to always protect wool knits with a mesh bag to ensure they don’t unravel.

Wool, felt, and other wool-like fabrics need to be washed on a delicate or “handwash” machine cycle with cold water and low spin. Select the delicate, “handwash”, or wool setting on the washing machine, and make sure the water temperature is cold and the spin is on low. Cold water and low spin will help to ensure your wool doesn’t shrink, warp, or unravel during the wash.

Add the appropriate amount of Wool & Cashmere Shampoo according to the machine and load size. 

For wool items with heavy buildup of odor or body products like perfume or lotion, add 3-4 capfuls of Scented Vinegar to the fabric softener tray in your machine. This will help to add an extra boost of vinegar-powered deep cleansing to your wool items, while still staying gentle on the fabric. Vinegar helps to keep wool feeling soft and looking glossy, can even help prevent premature yellowing on white wool by rinsing away yellowing-causing sweat buildup.

Remove wool items promptly from the washing machine once the cycle finishes to reduce creasing.

How to wash wool
How to wash wool
Dry & Finish

What’s the best way to dry wool? The safest—and only—way to dry wool is by air drying. Never, ever put wool clothing, including wool blends, in the dryer. The heat (even low heat) from machine drying will immediately shrink wool fabrics.

Lay your wool item flat in its natural shape on a drying rack or on top of a clean towel to dry. Again, do not put it in the dryer! To achieve a crease-free finish, it’s important to use your hands to reshape your wool item and gently press away wrinkles. If your wool item looks as though it has shrunken slightly in the wash—don’t fret. Wool yarns naturally tighten when wet, and will gently loosen during the drying process. This is why the reshaping step is key to achieving a “dry clean” looking finish to your wool. Take care to simply press, and not yank, the wool fabric to achieve the desired shape.

Expedite drying wool by laying the item flat on a clean towel. With the item in its original shape, roll it up in the towel (like a sleeping bag) to remove excess water. Never hang wet woolens, as the weight of the fabric can cause it to warp and permanently stretch into an unsightly shape.

When drying wool, avoid direct sunlight and heat sources, such as the radiator, because they can yellow, shrink, or damage woolens.

To remove wrinkles from wool, we recommend steaming for the best and safest finish. Do not iron, as ironing will crush or flatten the natural pile of the yarns. Keep in mind that smoothing wet wool fabric will help prevent wrinkles from occuring in the first place.

To freshen wool between wearings and to remove odors, spritz with Wool & Cashmere Spray. For slightly heavier odors, steam wool items for a more invigorating clean. Always launder wool items before putting them away for the summer season, as critters are attracted to residue from sweat and body oils (even those you can’t smell yourself).


When wool fibers become loose, they form little balls or pills. Pilling is a direct result of friction (which naturally occurs with movement), so the more you wear an item, the more likely it is to pill. High-quality cashmere and wool items contain longer yarns, making them less likely to pill until they have been worn many, many times. In addition, looser weave knits are more likely to pill than tighter weave ones, as there is more room for friction between the yarns.

Angora generally doesn't pill; if it does, 

Is pilling easy to lift? Yes! You can remove pills and lint on finer-gauge knits, such as lightweight sweaters, T-shirts, scarves, or pants by gliding the specially-designed Sweater Comb across the affected areas in one direction. For heavier-gauge items, such as thicker sweaters, outerwear, or heavy upholstery, use the Sweater Stone. This gentle pumice stone is designed to glide across thicker knits and open weaves. Keep in mind that when removing pills, you should always move the comb or stone with the direction of the item’s weave, not against it, to prevent snagging. When in doubt, use gentle, short combing motions, moving carefully across the fabric. Again, pilling occurs in high-friction areas, so be sure to address underarms, shoulders, cuffs, hip areas, and inseams.

  • Use the Cashmere Brush between wears to remove lint, fuzz, and hair and to release natural oils that rejuvenate yarns. This fine fabric brush is designed to last a lifetime, and is a great alternative to single-use paper sticker lint rollers.
How to wash wool
How to wash wool

Wool items like sweaters, winter accessories, and coats should be stored folded to prevent stretching or distorting. Store jackets and suits using a solid structured hanger, and protect them using a garment bag, like the Hanging Storage Bag.

Wool and cashmere are susceptible to insect damage, as critters love to dine on these natural fabrics. Always store items clean!  

To properly protect wool from bugs and critters, we recommend packing clothing and textiles in sturdy, reusable zippered bags made from breathable fabric, such as cotton or linen. The Laundress has a comprehensive collection of canvas and cotton zippered bags, sized to fit every closet and storage need! Never stow away items in plastic or cardboard. Plastic bins, cardboard, and dry cleaner bags may look tidy, but are not suitable for long term textile storage as they attract and encourage bugs and bug reproduction. They can also trap moisture, which can lead to yellowing and mold spots on fabric. 

By contrast, cotton and canvas bags allow for breathability while keeping items contained and free of dust. It’s also easy to clean reusable storage bags—we recommend steaming as needed in combination with a few spritzes of the cedar-infused Wool & Cashmere Spray to keep bags feeling and smelling fresh. Toss in a few Lavender Pouches with your wool items during storage to keep them smelling fresh during their seasonal hibernation.